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5 Tips for Taking Awesome Summer Travel Photos

By:  Scott Kelby Jul 31, 2014
Scott Kelby

During summer vacations, we all set out to capture and share the best travel photos. We strive for pictures that snap visual pieces of your trip and tell a story (or, at the very least, make all your friends say, “That place looks amazing! I’ve just got to go there, and by the way, I’m terribly jealous of you!”)

Okay, I may have been pushing it with the last part, but if you use these five simple photography tips and techniques, you can impressively capture memories (or be a social media hit)!

Scott Kelby

TIP #1: Don't Forget to Photograph the Food

One of the things we love about travel is getting to try different exotic (and super yummy) foods. This is why you always see so many shots of food in travel magazines.

  • The key is to either sit outside or sit by the window. Believe it or not, this makes a huge difference. If you shoot your food indoors, all the different light sources make for funky colors and weird shadows. But if you sit by the window, your dish is bathed in gorgeous natural light.

  • If possible, position the plate so that the sunlight is behind your food.

  • Zoom in as tight as you can on the plate. Don’t try to show the entire plate — just a part of it.

  • Lastly, tilt your camera on a 45° angle to give the photo more energy. 
Scott Kelby

That’s me taking the shot you saw earlier. I sometimes stand up to take the shots, which kind of makes my wife a little crazy. Well, that and the fact that I ask her not to eat until I shoot her food first.


Scott Kelby

You have to keep your camera absolutely still to get non-blurry shots in places without a lot of light, like cathedrals, opera houses, palaces, etc.

TIP #2: How to Get Sharp Photos in Dimly Lit Places

If you shoot in places without a lot of light, it’s almost guaranteed that you’re going to come away with blurry photos, which can be a real heartbreaker. The trick here is to find a way to keep your camera perfectly still while you’re taking the photo. Here are my favorite tricks for doing just that:

Scott Kelby

Resting your camera on the floor keeps your camera still and gives you a great low perspective on the scene.

  • Rest your camera on something. A table, a chair back, a pew in a cathedral, or in this case, I rested my camera on the support beam of a set of bars that kept us tourists from wandering. To get my camera up high enough, I had to take my lens hood off and use it to support my camera (hey, it worked!). Also, this low perspective creates a really wide and interesting look

  • If there’s nothing to lean against, try leaning yourself against a column or wall to help steady yourself and the camera. Then, tuck your arms in tight against your body to add more stability, take a deep breath, hold it, and take the shot.

  • The last trick is to set your camera to continuous or burst mode and take a whole bunch of shots in a row. At least one of the 10 or 12 shots will be really nice and sharp. The rest? They’ll be blurry so just delete those on the camera. 


Scott Kelby

Tourists can really kill an interesting location, so we need a trick to hide them.

TIP #3: Hide the Tourists

Nothing kills a great shot like a room full of tourists, and that’s exactly what we all experience taking pictures on vacation. The trick? Frame the shot so that you’re shooting just above their heads. You’ll still capture the scene (see below), but without the distraction of strange tourists.

Scott Kelby

By framing the shot so you’re shooting just above their heads, it seems like they’re not there.

This trick works wonders in places of architectural interest, train stations (which is where the shot above was taken), in front of monuments, and anywhere really. Remember, just tip your camera up a tiny bit so the bottom of your frame is just above their heads. Voila! You’ve got an empty room!


Scott Kelby

Here’s an example of the type of images that, while they’re not epic on their own, together they really help tell your story.

TIP #4: Get Photos of Things That Help Tell the Story

When sharing your photos in person or online, it helps to have shots that tell the story. Not just big, epic hero shots, but images that tell the details in between.

Scott Kelby

Here’s another example of detail shots that help support your story

For example, at restaurants I like taking close up photos of menus, or the specials of the day written on chalkboards. Each country is unique, so consider what might be interesting like postal drop boxes, interesting doorknobs, or small gifts in shop windows. These little things help tell your story and work especially well when combined with more than one photo on a page (like I did above). By the way, there are a lot of different apps for making great collages.


Scott Kelby

This shot was taken through the window as our bus wound along a twisty road. I was afraid the driver wouldn’t stop for us take pictures, so I snapped this one using the technique I outline below. By the way — he didn’t stop.

TIP #5: How to Get Great Photos Through a Tour Bus Window

Most of us will wind up spending at least some time riding around in a tour bus, and it’s unfortunately a common place to take bad or blurry photos. The problem is simply reflections. In this example, when taking a photo through a bus window I saw reflections of bus seats, other passengers, the windows on the other side of the bus and a whole bunch of things that ruined the photo. But there’s a great trick to get around reflections.

Here’s what to do: Hold your camera about 1” from the window (don’t actually touch the window because the bus is bouncing around and your photos will be blurry. Aim straight flush with the window and you’ll have eliminated most, if not all of the reflections making your photos look great!

So there you have it — five tips to make your travel photos this summer better than ever. By the way, if you dig this travel photography stuff, I did a free travel photography talk based on my summer trip from “Prague to Budapest” and go over everything from photo gear, settings and camera techniques, and even Photoshop stuff. You can find it here.


Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby is the editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine and President of KelbyOne.com. He is the co-host of the highly acclaimed weekly videocast The Grid, and teaches photography, Lightroom and Photoshop workshops around the world.

Scott is an award-winning author of more than 50 books, including The Digital Photography Books, The Adobe Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, and Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image

For more on Scott, see his blog www.scottkelby.com

Scott is part of The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.